(28th December, 2004)


'There is no KEY to happiness - the door is always open.'



Hi , I'm Debora Gross, I live in Brazil and I´m executed here in Rio de Janeiro the greatest Mabruk Festival international of Belly Dance , I brink the Florida  Maja the girl from the Nile , Gabriel Ahmed (Siria), Beduina Sarat (Arg) , Joelma (Cairo), 

in the site  

she tell about the Festival here have photos, now in 2004 bring Rania (LA), Aziza Nawal (AT), Araceli e Romina Mustone (ARG), Hozunny ( FL).

And now I´ll make a new selection, for Mabruk 2005, if you could participate the my selection for next event, I would like bring you a workshop and Gala Show.

Zaïda:  Debora, your email is the first I have received from Brazil.  What a thrill for me!

I am absolutely delighted that belly dance is so popular in Brazil.  The more women, world-wide who experience this wonderful dance, the more women will find their true selves and learn to ENJOY being women.




Greetings sister in dance!  I am building up my own 'list' of dancers from around the globe; I already been in contact with ladies in UK and USA and am looking for more new friends and ideas.

I will be returning to Turkey in December where I left my husband minding the dog!

I hope you are well - perhaps hear from you - anyone who dances is more than welcome to email me - the more the merrier - Ching Ching!

Zaïda:  Ching Ching! what a cheerful greeting.  You lift my soul!




I have been considering belly dancing, but because I am 52 I thought 'maybe not'; then I ran across your website.

It is very encouraging and uplifting.  I had a big concern of baring my belly (I am the mother of 10) for modesty reasons.  I loved your costume idea!   Thanks a bunch!!!!



Zaïda:   I am almost 69 so you are just a 'chicken' as far as I am concerned ~grin~

Baring your belly is pure Hollywood..... don't go there!

I feel that if a dancer bares her belly, even if it is a BEAUTIFUL belly, the audience will focus on that and not on the dancer or the dance.   Cover the belly and they see YOU!

I am a great believer in wearing what suits your personality and figure - and YOU are the only person in the world who can decide that.

Find yourself a compatible teacher - I stress compatible - and you will have more FUN than you ever thought you could, even if you were 30 years younger.  You will find YOU!!!!    ENJOY!




-What a wonderful site and how generous you are to share so much of your experience! It's the best one I found in searching the web for "belly dancing."

I took lessons decades ago and at 61, I found a renewed interest in the dance when a friend and I were slated to be on the Sept. program of our sorority. The theme this year for the club is, "Live and learn and pass it on," and the president wanted everyone to present something that she can do that perhaps no one else in the club knows how to do.

Only 3 weeks ago did we decide what we would present so I haven't had much practice time. She's presenting some of the history, terms, and now, after going to your site, the great attitude to have in learning to belly dance.

I will be returning to your site often.  Thanks.


Zaïda:  You gave my day a HUGE boost! Thankyou!!!!!

I hope you will let me know how your performance on 'the night' goes - a photo would be LOVELY!!!!!




I took your advice on belly dancing and tried not to look at the floor.

I did my first ever solo on July 26th and it was a great success - I enjoyed it very much.

I found your site very encouraging and helpful - thanks again.


Zaïda:  What a thrill!  You must have been so excited!  You have given me a real thrill by letting me know about your first ever solo. Thank you for thinking of me – I am very, very happy for you and hope this is only the first of MANY Solo dances – or even group if you decide to go down that line….. in time.

Hugs and smiles and keep that shimmy going.



I am also 68 next birthday and have recently started classes, so I really enjoyed your site.

I love to dance and although I get a great deal from Tai Chi, I miss the lift of the music.  

Oriental dance has met a real need!!!!


Zaïda:  I am so very happy to hear you are ‘into’ belly dance.  It is a real passion with me and I only discovered it when I was 60.

I have a friend who has studied Tai Chi for many years and went to a major Tai Chi ‘thing’ (can’t call it a Hafla can I), in New York recently – must be very keen as New York is quite a hop and a skip from Australia – anyhow, as I started to say, she is not in the least bit interested in belly dance (I have tried) but obsessed with Tai Chi; your comment about the music made it all clear to me as my friend is unmusical.

A few young dancers – because they relate to hip hop music – are dancing belly dance moves to the current phase of popular music, but Arabic music has been around for centuries and will endure far longer than any interim styles. The sheer drive, happy sound and intricate rhythm patterns of Arabic music are far more exciting than the monotonous, steady beat of western music.

I hope you keep dancing and having FUN!




Hi, I truly believe anyone can perform to this dance, I even have a couple of sixty year olds in my class.  My name is Kaaren and I am hoping for your help.  I do not have a computer yet so I am unable to make my own website so I hope you can help.  

I would like to show the locals what bellydancing is about and show them that anyone can perform.  I weighed 180 pounds and with bellydancing I am now 120 and I am bettering myself, spiritually and feeling I can do anything I put my mind to.  

 I am in Barrie, Ontario an hour away from Toronto (North).  

I can be reached at (705) 726-7776 and my email is




Hello, I am an ex-dancer who quit out of respect for my husband who did not want me to do it. That was 16 years ago and now that he is more mature and secure about our relationship, I have decided to dance again.

One problem, I am older (48), heavier (250 pounds) and my confidence is low. 

I found your website by accident and I feel much better about starting again.  I don't need classes, I was a pro, but I do need the physical re-training. You have helped me a lot. Thank you.

Zaïda: I am almost a quarter of a century older than you – I shall be 68 next month – and only STARTED belly dancing at the age of 60, so you just IGNORE the people who think you are too old or too fat or your eyes are the wrong colour.

Start dancing again – in a group – it is much more fun than on your own.  Start your own group if you prefer – actually this is much more fun as you can do what YOU want to do.   A photo would be lovely, when you decide to dance again.  

How can you NOT dance?




Could you please tell me when is the best time to start belly dancing classes?  Do you have a set programme/beginning?  I would like to know a little bit about your classes


Zaïda: the best time to start belly dancing classes is the moment you feel even the slightest interest.

My classes are very laid back and I do not push any of my dancers to do more than they feel they are able to – or WANT to.  My dancers are all older women, so they have a huge weight of hang-ups and inhibitions and years and years of brainwashing to overcome.  Some shuck this garbage off quickly, some cling to it like a lifeline….  I don’t push it – they walk their path through life at their own pace.  I encourage.

I don’t expect any of my dancers to dance exactly like I do – my body is built differently to theirs so each one does the moves according to the way her body is built.   Some have trouble telling their left from their right – this I try to correct – gently and without fuss – eventually (and it took one dancer 2 years), they get the idea.  

One of my dancers is ALWAYS out of step, she will step back when we are all stepping forward, she will turn to her right, when we are turning to our left, you can count on her doing the opposite of everything, so I just let her go.  Maybe one day her mind will ‘un-kink’ – if it doesn’t ….. who really CARES!!!

I try to encourage my dancers to each evolve her own dance style and not try to be a clone of me.  That is the only way they will actually DANCE and not just march to the beat of the drum.  Once they can really HEAR the music and their bodies respond to it, then they are DANCERS.




Lovely Lady,  I visit your site every now and again to see what is happening in your part of the world, and enjoy the emails you display; especially the older, larger ladies who are trembling on the brink of discovering their freedom - to discard the rules of conduct which have inhibited their joy of life expression.

I send you 2 photos in celebration of taking the challenge to Zills while dancing.  I have danced for 7 years and 'zilled' in a drummers' group for 6 years, but never thought I  could put the two together.....but YES.....I  DID!!!!!

Take Life and grab the Joy!!!!




Hi!  I saw your web site and really enjoyed it.  

I am 53 and I dance in a troupe called 'Beledi Magic'.  We range in age from 13 to 53;  and yes, I am the oldest and I have the most seniority in  the group.  Two of us are grandmothers and three of us have our daughters dancing with us.  

I have been dancing for almost 8 years and wished I had started this when I was younger;  just wanted to say 'Hi!' and I will keep looking at your web site.   


Zaïda: thanks for your email – I always get a real CHARGE when someone emails and tells me they enjoy my website.

I am now 68, so you are still a young woman in my eyes…. ~grin~  ENJOY!!!




You will always find the ones who want to "know it all in an instant!" I had someone ask that a couple of weeks ago! I think it was one of my young girls that wanted to know when we were going to do a "revue" ??? I told her that we call it a "Hafla" or a "Gala" and I want to make sure they know their steps first! It takes time!!! Perhaps in the Fall ...I don't know ...

What do you think about pushing an 8 week course on a beginner then doing a performance??? I think it's too much for them! Unless they have some formal/previous dance training and can remember quite well! ... whatever .... Let me know what you think! I feel (taking myself into consideration of course...) that it may be too soon to do this in 8 weeks! I believe we need time to get "familiarity" not to mention the style and fluidity of the movement that goes with the dance ...  ((???))


Zaïda: I think your ‘time lapse’ until you can put on a public performance depends on your style of dance.

My personal preference is beledi where each dancer is encouraged to dance her own interpretation of the music.  I usually have a bit of loose choreography where they all do much the same moves at much the same time but are not expected to be in time with each other or in exactly the same position as each other.  We dance in a counter-clockwise circle so none of them can hide ‘at the back’.  This also means that the audience don’t see a row of dancers and only see one dancer at a time; I am sure, like myself, when you are watching a line of dancers, you find yourself watching a particular dancer and the others just fade into the background.  After a minute or two or three, the dance breaks into ‘free dance’ where they all do their own thing, still moving in the circle, then we finish with a unified movement as a finale.

This way, it does not matter how well they can do the moves or what their body shape is….it is all music, movement, colour and JOY!!!!   I keep emphasising that they must enjoy themselves as this comes across to the audience and the audience have fun too. 

 If the dancers are uptight and trying to watch each other to make sure they are ‘in step’ they cannot have fun and the audience will pick this up.  I encourage my dancers to join us in our public performances even if they have only had one lesson.  I tell them it is just FUN and if they do not feel confident enough to join in the dances, they can just dress up and come and waft a veil around….they usually join in and get horribly ‘lost’ but it does not matter at all.

We generally only dance for older audiences such as Nursing Homes, so they enjoy whatever we give them.

 Middle Eastern Dance is country dance – thus people in the Middle East do their own thing to the music.

 Of course, if you plan to do the Riverdance style, you are in for a lot of heartache as it will take a long, long time for all your dancers to learn to move exactly the same way as each other, and if they are dancing in a straight line across the ‘stage’ then even one false move stands out like dog’s balls….this will cause you a lot of angst and you will be haranguing them to ‘try and get it right’.

 I am constantly correcting my dancer’s MOVES so that they do the moves in such a way that they look nice, but I don’t sweat it if they change the move to suit their own body shape….also with older women, they have a lot of hang-ups.  One of my dancers is very petite but she has a large well-shaped bust.  She is self-conscious of her bust and tries not to ‘flaunt’ it.  I keep telling her to utilise her assets and she is getting more relaxed about it.  Another one dances with her hands rigid and all the fingers stuck out stiffly like the Straw Man in the Wizard of Oz.  I keep working on her hands…… one day……




Found your web site while surfing the web trying to find a teacher close to the tiny community to which I recently moved.  I have not danced for 5 years except occasionally with a Gypsy troupe I've belonged to.  Now neighbors and friends in my new town of 1,760 people want me to teach them belly dance.  Yikes, I've forgotten more than I remember. 
I've also have felt so old, tired, and ugly due to   1) having both knees reconstructed   2) breast cancer (mastectomy)  3) neuropathy in my feet and throughout my body.  For almost two years I could not walk the length of a department store.  

My move out of the Los Angeles area has brought about much healing and now I must begin to move my body again. 

At 53 I am starting over in life. Seeing the photos of all of your ladies has motivated me and convinced me that I can still have many years of dance ahead of me.  Two neighbors who want to be the start of my "class" are also 53 and are only now beginning belly dance.  We may have a future together after all.
Thank you Zaida for the inspiration I needed to get up and dance again.
P.S.  if you want to see a photo of me while I was undergoing chemo and dancing with the troupe enter the word "Shouva" in your search engine.  You can find a few references to me as well as some writings I've done for "Dancer Cancer", an on-line support group for ethnic dancers with breast and ovarian cancer.

Zaïda:  It is YOU who has inspired me.  Thankyou!




I have just discovered your wonderful site and would like to thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely. 

I have been teaching for 2 years only, but have no training which seems to be the thing to do here (UK). You do need time and money to train - I have neither at the moment being the mother of 3 children!  I found your section on teaching very helpful and, after a lot of trial and error, seem to be structuring my classes in a similar way to yours - very reassuring. 

I have only been dancing for 4 years but picked it up fairly quickly - I have practised yoga for 20+ yrs and was married to a Mid-eastern man - but find many Western women are 'up-tight', so I use many ways to get them to relax and have FUN! Your bit on older women is also very helpful (I am 39, not old yet,!). 

Thankyou again - I'm sure I will visit often.


Zaïda:  Baladi – pronounced beh-leh-dee means ‘of the people’  in other words ‘country dance’. The Western world corrupted the word to beledi and then belly; so belly dance is the dance of the people and differs from village to village, and even person to person.   Hang your soul on the music and DANCE.  Whatever your body feels – is RIGHT!!!!

  About teaching and ‘training’ teachers – remember – most western teachers have a background of classical ballet training even if they never developed beyond the basics – many grew too tall. Thus, most Western teachers tend to try and reshape belly dance into a form of ballet – probably quite unconsciously.

  You don’t need ‘training’ to dance – just dance.  The moves you learn from watching other dancers, videos or even live teachers - you can use in your classes – you will find that every dancer changes those moves to suit her body.  Belly dancers are not all cast from the same mould as are ballet dancers, so each body looks quite different when doing the same moves.  Don’t sweat it – that is the joy of the dance.

  I use a number of Yoga and Tai Chi moves in my warm-up session – these help the women to relax and ‘open up’; Western women find it very difficult to give themselves permission to just DANCE.

  My teaching methods change as my dancers change and as I learn how to teach.  It is a never-ending learning curve and very enjoyable.  To watch a stiff, uptight, shy, self-conscious woman blossom into an extrovert dancer – a dancer who is dancing for herself and not just imitating the teacher’s moves – that is sheer JOY!



Some years ago I mailed you for advice when I had just started performing and much valued it was too.  Subsequently I bought your book and I and friends found it inspiring and encouraging ( yes I know, they should have bought their own copies!) 

Well, now I have been dancing for 6 years at Haflas, cultural and charity events, social and theatre gigs and even been part of a pop promo video. I've visited Cairo to see great dancing and do some great shopping!

I've just become a granny and at almost, God willing, 57 years old intend to enjoy this dance as long as I can and with as much fervour as my baby dance sisters. 

All the best for 2004.

 Zaïda: You are so lucky to have visited Cairo and seen the dancing and indulged in the shopping.

A hint from a teacher who has been teaching for 30 years - add the move to the shimmy, not the shimmy to the move.  Much easier!




I found your website today through Shira's site in the US where I am listed as a teacher and performer. I was a little reluctant to visit it to begin with as I have never thought of myself as an "older woman" (aged 49 years). I have always maintained an amusing idea that you don't know when Middle Age occurs until you get to the end.
Your website is lovely and very informative and you have obviously worked very hard to compile all the information in it. I especially like the entire section on Male Dancers. It is a passionate interest of mine and in fact I am on the verge of booking Said El Amir to come to the UK to teach workshops. I have been emailing with him for several months and he has sent me video footage of him dancing and he is absolutely lovely. Probably be a 2005 booking I think.
I was intrigued to find comments from even a 30 year old woman who considered herself already to be an older woman!
I love the comments you make also about "Releasing the soul" and losing inhibitions. In our Westernised world women are very inhibited about their bodies and it is one of the most difficult things I find as a teacher to help people "let go " a little. However, when I look back at my own dance history which spans some 25 years in total, it is probably only the last 7 years or so that I have really come out of my "shell". I would like with your permission to use one or two of those little comments within my classes to inspire my students. I will of course pass them the link to your website also.
Best Wishes for a very Happy New Year


 Zaïda:      Your delightful email - my first for 2004 - really lifted my soul.  Thankyou!!!!!!

Please use any information from my website - that is what is intended - the dissemination of information.  When I see something which I feel is relevant to our passion, I include it.